Developing Your Career

Developing Your Career

Hang Tough and Have a Plan: How to Get Things Done

By Helene Cavalli on April 16, 2014

As Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”  It’s not uncommon for some people to struggle with the responsibility of long-range projects. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by unexpected challenges and frustrations that come up along the way.  They can’t see the possible in the seemingly impossible.  While having a great idea or strategy is important, it’s equally important that you can execute.  When execution flounders, goals aren’t achieved.

So how can you hone the skills required to remain focused and determined to the end of a project that can take months to complete?  The key lies in grit, as well as understanding the foundations of project management.

Whether you’re handling a project on your own, or working with a team, here are a few tips for setting a plan in motion that will stay on track and get done:

  1. Identify milestones.  When working on a broad assignment, break it down into its manageable parts so you’ll have a clear understanding of what the project involves.
  2. Establish goals.  Identify what definitive actions need to be taken each step of the way.  Clarify the desired outcomes with key players to ensure your objectives are aligned and keep your project from veering off track.
  3. Determine responsibilities.  After breaking down the project into milestones, determine the team member responsible for each task and identify what information or resources are needed to complete the task.
  4. Develop a timeline.  Each project component should have a timeline indicating a projected completion date.  Team members and management should be kept informed as to the project’s progress through regular updates.
  5. Keep the team connected.  Don’t rely solely on email for updates or requests.  Schedule regular calls, and, when possible, face-to-face meetings, so that you have an opportunity to discuss issues and brainstorm ideas.
  6. Monitor and track.  Clear measurements for performance is critical.  Know what’s been accomplished and what actions are pending.
  7. Meet your milestones.  Accountability is key.  Identify one or two of the most important things you can do each week to impact the project.  Everyone should be held accountable for meeting their short-term goals.

Free, online courses such as Alison.com’s Fundamentals of Project Management or Saylor.org’s Project Management from Simple to Complex offer overviews of project management principles and techniques that will help build a strong foundation and boost confidence—making the next impossible project seem possible.

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